Armin Van Buuren: Universal Religion 2008

Dutch trance-meister Armin van Buuren recorded Universal Religion 2008 at the Amnesia nightclub in Ibiza in August 2007 so no one should be surprised by the deep Balearic vibe of the set. Sunlounger's “Another Day On the Terrace” opens the almost eighty-minute set with synth tones so warm and lush, they verge on shameless, after which Dash Berlin deepens the trance vibe with the bass-driven raver “Till the Sky Falls Down.” The surging swing of Dubfire's “Roadkill” soon follows, as does Terk Dawn's blazing “Barent Blue.” The set catches its breath for a few moments in Aly & Fila vs. FKN's “How Long?” before resuming its charge. By the time we reach The Doppler Effect's “Beauty Hides In the Deep,” van Buuren's mix stampedes so furiously it's almost ridiculous. True to form, van Buuren's set continually winds itself up to the standard peaks and gallops relentlessly throughout. Female singers (like Audrey Gallagher, who graces John O'Callaghan's anthemic “Big Sky,” Jennifer Rene, who drapes her fragile whisper across the pumping groove of Jose Amnesia's “Invincible,” and Susana, who gets the closing spot in van Buuren's “If You Should Go”) emote rapturously over pounding 4/4 kick drum patterns and sweeping washes while bubbly, chiming synths swell into grandiose flourishes. To this listener at least, the live elements prove more a distraction than enhancement; while they do (as intended) bolster the set's live feel, the one-dimensional crowd whistles and claps quickly wear out their welcome. File Universal Religion 2008 under “populist dance music.”

February 2008